PORTAGE | James Snyder says his first year as mayor of the region's third largest city has been exciting, full of challenges and a learning experience.
"It's been what I anticipated and more," said Snyder, the city's second Republican mayor and the youngest person to take the office since the city incorporated in 1968. "It's funny how people talk about experience (when running for office.) There's no way you can get the experience until you're here. There's no way to know what it is like until you get into the office."
Snyder said his top priority this year has been keeping the city safe.
"There is no more important job that I have than to make sure the residents and children of Portage are safe," he said, adding he believes the police department, headed by his appointment Chief Troy Williams, has kept the city safe.
"I want people to feel safe, safer than in any other city. The testament is the low level of crime we have in Portage. The chief and his staff are working tirelessly," said Snyder.
In his first year in office, Snyder said he believes his team is accomplishing goals they set out to accomplish when elected.
A change in trash/recycling pick-up officially kicks off Feb. 4. The city has begun tackling the redevelopment of U.S. 20 by hiring consultants to develop a long-term plan and the Redevelopment Commission, which Snyder heads, has moved to purchase some properties along the corridor.
Tackling the city's finances has been difficult.
"We inherited $500,000 in unpaid bills. We had to take quick steps. We have nearly 20 less people working for the city. We've had to tackle health insurance change. We are looking at a balanced budget in 2013," he said.
He's had other difficulties too. Snyder and the Democrat majority City Council have butted heads a few times over issues such as trash and negotiations.
However, Snyder said despite their differences, he believes he and the council have worked well together.
"At times it seemed tenuous. But, with the council, I was surprised the other way, how we have worked together. The key was building coalitions, getting facts and sharing facts. We've had a lot of accomplishments, a lot more than setbacks," said Snyder.
"The team of department heads, the clerk treasurer and the council have all worked together," said Snyder about turning the city's financial situation around.
Snyder said the job has taught him to be more patient, "to wait 24 hours before responding and to seek more counsel from residents, staff and others who have done this before."
His biggest disappointment was not getting a COPS grant through the council and the realization that sometimes government moves more slowly than he would like.